Almost 25,000 people filled the Carrier Dome to watch Colgate play Syracuse in the season opener. The evening started with a banner ceremony to celebrate Syracuse’s hot run to the final four last March, and the Orange looked just as sharp to start the 2016-17 campaign. Entering the season as the 17th-ranked team in the nation, Syracuse obviously posed a lofty challenge for the Raiders. The final score was 83-55, but there were certainly
promising moments for Colgate.
The Raiders came out unintimidated by their high-ranked opponents. The Raiders’ outside shooting was on display because of Syracuse’s well-known zone defense. The athletic ability of the Syracuse team put a lot of pressure on Colgate’s backcourt, led by juniors Sean O’Brien and Jordan Robertson. However, five minutes into the game, Colgate led 11-9 after O’Brien nailed a three-pointer. The game remained competitive until the five minute mark in the first half, when the Orange started a 31-6 run that spanned into the opening minutes of the second half. Head Coach Matt Langel talked about this change in momentum after the game.
“They went on a run. Our transition defense struggled at times. You have to credit their athletes and their size for part of that. We battled tough in the second half and made some adjustments. It absolutely is a difficult game to play, but it’s one our guys were excited to play,” Langel said.
Syracuse’s defense and athleticism continued to provide transition opportunities. The Orange’s defense forced 14 Raider turnovers, including 10 steals. Their lead blossomed to 35 points, with 12:43 left in the second half before Colgate found their way again. The Raiders were able to trim the margin by ten before the end of regulation.
Despite being largely outmatched, there were many positives to take away for Langel and his team. Sophomore center Dana Batt came off the bench and added four points on 2-2 shooting; he also took down a game-high seven boards, which is much more impressive when factoring in the size of the Orange front court. Rebounding was an overall positive for the Raiders, as they were only out-rebounded 46-40 by the Orange, despite shooting 26 percent worse from the field. Langel also discussed what worthy takeaways he and his staff saw in their season-opener.
“We showed signs at times of being able to do some good things. Our offense against the zone produced a lot of good looks. We had some good chances to stay in the game for a little bit longer,” Langel said.
Up next for the Raiders is Cornell. The Big Red and Colgate went into double overtime last season with Cornell, pulling out a 101-98 victory. This year’s contest will take place in Ithaca, where Colgate hopes to log their first win of the season, and gain momentum heading into upcoming conference matchups